Science/Tech

Newly Discovered "Leadership Gene" May Identify Those Who Are Born to Rule

statue of Abraham Lincoln at his memorial in Washington
Famous historical leaders such as Abraham Lincoln may have possessed the recently discovered "leadership gene". REUTERS/Jason Reed

Great leaders are born not bred, according to a new twin study.

Scientists say that the latest study is the first to discover a specific DNA sequence associated with the tendency for individuals to occupy leadership positions.

Researchers discovered that the leadership gene, known as rs4950, is an inherited DNA sequence associated with people who are good at taking charge.

The new study, published in the journal Leadership Quarterly, suggests that the rs4950 gene may provide the essential push needed to make someone into a leader rather than a follower.

British researchers at the University College London found the leadership gene after they analyzed DNA samples from approximately 4,000 individuals and matched them to information about careers and relationships.

The study used workplace supervisory roles as a measurement of leadership behavior.

The findings revealed that a quarter of the observed variation in leadership traits between individuals could be explained by genetics.

"We have identified a genotype, called rs4950, which appears to be associated with the passing of leadership ability down through generations," lead study author Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve said in a statement. "The conventional wisdom -- that leadership is a skill -- remains largely true, but we show it is also, in part, a genetic trait."

Researchers note that while getting a leadership position mostly depends on developing skills, inheriting the leadership trait can also play an important role in determining who's the boss.

"As recent as last August, Professor John Antonakis, who is known for his work on leadership, posed the question: 'is there a specific leadership gene?'" De Neve said.

"This study allows us to answer yes -- to an extent. Although leadership should still be thought of predominantly as a skill to be developed, genetics -- in particular the rs4950 genotype -- can also play a significant role in predicting who is more likely to occupy leadership roles," he said.

Researchers added that more studies are needed to understand how the rs4950 leadership gene interacts with other factors like a child's learning environment, in the emergence of leadership.

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